Archive for the ‘ Helpful tips ’ Category

Skills learned in CGT 512

Here is a list of skills I think you have at least experimented with and learned (even if not mastered yet) in CGT 512. Please choose from this list as you revise your portfolio. Don’t undersell your work and what you’ve learned! This is not the time to be modest.


  • How to go through the iterative UCD process
  • How to use research methods specific to UCD
  • How to use creativity methods specific to UCS
  • How to create a range of artifacts (sketches, wireframes) and documents (reports) specific to UCD


  • how to plan a user research study
  • how to collect data
  • how to analyze data
  • how to extract design requirements out of data
  • how to write personas, scenarios, and design requirements


  • how to apply usability principles to evaluate an interface
  • how to identify usability issues
  • how to rank the severity of usability issues
  • how to conduct heuristic evaluation


  • how to use methods to stimulate ideas
  • how to chose between competing ideas
  • how to translate an abstract idea into a tangible artifact
  • how to create UCD artifacts such as sketches, story boards, and wireframes
  • how to conduct a cognitive walkthrough
  • how to identify and prioritize usability issues through a cognitive walkthrough
  • how to communicate your ideas for user experience and explain them to others


  • how to plan a usability study: what metrics, data, procedures, instruments to use
  • how to collect data for a usability study
  • how to analyze qualitative and quantitative data for a usability study
  • how to identify usability issues from a usability study
  • how to prioritize usability issues
  • how to apply usability heuristics to suggest solutions for the usability issues you have identified
  • how to present the findings and write a usability report

Some tips for user research

  • Keep in mind this is a class project with very limited time. You might not be able to collect all the data you want. Some data is better than none. Even if you collect a lot of data, keep in mind you have to analyze it later, and that takes time, too! So, it might be ideal to conduct 12-20 interviews, but you probably should stop at about 6.

  • Take detailed notes during data collection, in addition to audio recordings. You will probably rely on your notes a lot, because you might not have time to transcribe your recordings. Transcription is very time consuming.

  • Remember to focus on understanding user behavior, but not asking people what they need, want, and how they would build it. It might be wise to run your interview questions by me. Your goal is to observe and understand human behavior very well so you can see opportunities for innovation.

  • DO take advantage of existing secondary research. Look at existing reports and data, and then conduct a bit of qualitative research so you can get a deeper understanding of the issues and gain empathy for the users. For example, I am sure there are reports about how young adults consume news, or about difficulties small businesses face. (I’m not sure on any research about Thirsty Thursday, but there must be something about what constitutes good campus life). Also, there is a lot of information about teaching and teachers and how they should teach things like modeling and simulation. Find some. Don’t reinvent the wheel! You can include a summary of this secondary research in your user research report, or allow it to inform the persona(s). Make sure you cite your sources.

  • In your user research, follow the steps you learned in class and cite your sources for the methods and processes you are using!

  • Do not let your assumptions get in the way. Avoid the risk of seeing what you want to see – especially if you think you already know how to solve problems you haven’t researched yet.

  • ASK ME QUESTIONS. I’m here to help. I believe there is value in you figuring things out, so try, but if you find that you are struggling too much, email me or ask me to a group meeting.

Finally, please remember that reading this blog as well as classmates’ blogs and commenting on them is a requirement of participation in this course. I think/expect that you read my posts within 1-3 days after I post them. Is that the case? Please let me know by interacting with this post as soon as you read it. It is important information and I need to know if you saw it. Like, rate, comment.


I am puzzled by how few notes students take in class these days… Maybe you have better memory than me!

I want to introduce you to a different way of taking notes – a visual way. Please browse these sets on flicks to see what sketchnotes look like:

And then, look at these slides about how to take sketchnotes and why:

What is your note taking strategy? Do you take notes? Why? Why not? How do you take notes? How do you decide what’s worth writing down and what isn’t? How do you show links and connections between ideas in your notes?

Task and time-on-task consistency across groups

[UPDATE] Please record each one of your participants’ time on task in this spreadsheet.

I have just reviewed the research plan for all groups. If you have not heard back from me, please email me ASAP.

I am noticing that groups are getting creative with writing the usability tasks and what they consider as task success. You are welcome to do so, as long as you record time on task for the initial moment when the user has found the page (has reached the URL) with that information. Record that time as T1 for each task. Then, if you ask the user to do something else on that page, that’s fine. You can record that time as T2 for each task.

It is important we keep the tasks consistent across groups, so we can see some comparisons across groups.

The tasks I wrote on the Google Doc for this assignment are:

  1. Find information about requirements for admission in the CGT graduate program.
  2. Find what courses are required for a MS in CGT degree.
  3. Find the main areas of study within CGT.
  4. Find contact information so you can request more information.
  5. Find information about receiving funding assistance for your graduate studies.
  6. Find information about CGT professors’ areas of research.
  7. Find the page where you can begin the application process for admission to graduate school.

Please keep them as they are (some MINOR wording modifications are fine, but not really necessary) and measure T1 for each task consistently for all groups.

Let me know what questions you have.

Mid-term self evaluation feedback

I have just finished reading all mid-term self evaluations. Please find individual feedback on Blackboard. I would like to elaborate here on some thoughts that apply to all or most of you:


The blog seems to be the most difficult part. This is understandable, because it requires constant attention, and is different from what you’re used to. There are two main difficulties students reported: 1) Fear that blog posts aren’t smart enough; 2) Time management.


Please understand that blog posts do not need to be finished masterpieces. They document your thoughts, even unfinished ones. This is one of the few instances where I emphasize quantity rather than quality. Why is that? Because the purpose of the blog assignment in this class is to keep HCI on your mind; to train your mind to notice and evaluate user experiences in everyday life.

The reading reflections are meant for you to show me evidence that you read. I think they’re much more dignified than quizzes.

Time management

You need to figure out a combination of tools to help you stay on track. For me, it is my calendar client and list management tool

I will help you a bit more by posting some reminders on the blog – though I am a bit overqualified for the personal assistant job 😉

From what I read in the self-evaluations, you are enjoying the class and learning a lot. I am glad that is the case. If you encounter difficulties, please email me so I can help you earlier rather than later.

Now, post those reading reflections! We only have two more readings this semester!

Reading guidance: Oct 31, 2012

This week’s readings are quite straightforward.

The first thing you need to understand is what is usability testing and why it’s done.

Then, imagine you had to run usability testing (you will have to for UR4). What do you do? The book explains the procedures step-by-step.

Reading guidance: Info architecture; Prototyping Oct. 24, 2012

This week completes the topic of conceptual design. Organizing information (information architecture) is an important part of the design. Please head to Bb > Readings > Week 10… and read at least the first reading posted there. As you read, please try to understand the following about information architecture:

  1. What is it?
  2. What are some user-centered techniques for creating the information architecture?
  3. What are various website topologies (ways of organizing information)?

As you skim the other two research articles, try to figure out:

  1. What navigation topologies and structures are better in what kind of situations?

UX Book Chapter 11 is about Prototypes. They are the logical continuation of sketches and wireframes that you read about for last week. The most important thing to get out of the chapter, IMO, is:

  1. How do you choose between the different types and fidelity levels of prototypes? (this assumes you know the types and fidelity levels)
  2. What are some pitfalls to avoid when prototyping?

Note: I am aware that there is a report due on class day, but this is NOT an excuse to not do the readings!

Is this reading guidance useful to you? Do I need to invest the time to write a post each week, or is my time better spent elsewhere? Please let me know in the comments and ratings below.